Grapevine: Paddock Life: Suzuka edition

AUTOSPORT brings you its regular column of life inside the paddock. This week: Suzuka

With some lengthy bus journeys on rural roads to get to and from the Suzuka track, a culture that is very different to what is experienced back home, and this year some pretty horrendous weather, there is one thing that you cannot call the Japanese Grand Prix: dull.

The circuit is one of the very best out there, and there is always much that brings a smile to your face - with dancing marshals and Lewis Hamilton getting put into a tiny 1950s Messerschmitt KR175 bubble-car for the Sunday drivers' parade drawing quite a few laughs.

And while the grandstands may not be packed as much as they used to be, those spectators who do make the effort are tremendously passionate about their sport and the drivers - with many of them willing to stand for hours in the rain to get a glimpse of their heroes.

That is why Saturday's qualifying day must have been tremendously disappointing for the fans - as they saw virtually no action all day and the only racing was makeshift boats floating down the pitlane.

But if Nico Rosberg had had his way, the Japanese fans would have been treated to something really special when he was asked what should be done in the future if rain stops play.

"I have a good idea," smiled the German. "Everybody one lap in the SLS [safety car], qualifying. Standing start, one lap each - and that is it."

Bring it on!

Although Suzuka only hosted its first Formula 1 race in 1987, the place has achieved iconic status as a race track.

Much of that has been helped by the legend of Ayrton Senna, who won his maiden world championship title at the track in 1988 and suffered so much joy and heartbreak at the circuit.

The new Ayrton Senna movie documentary was given a special preview screening for fans on the Thursday night, and many F1 people made the trek over to the venue to sneak in at the back to watch.

On Sunday there were even more special memories of the three-time world champion when his nephew Bruno Senna got behind the wheel of an 1986 Lotus-Renault for a demonstration lap - with Takuma Sato also showing off a former Gunnar Nilsson car.

The fans, who had been treated to glorious blue skies following the downpour of Saturday, loved it!

Christmas may still be a few months away, but Christian Horner has already worked out what his team will be giving Mark Webber this year.

After the Singapore Grand Prix, Red Bull Racing discovered just how lucky Webber had been to get to the finish of the race after his right front tyre had slipped off its mounting following his collision with Lewis Hamilton.

That damaged wheel hub is the perfect evidence of the kind of good luck that Webber is receiving this year - as payback for all the bad fortune he has suffered earlier in his career.

And Horner has revealed that the team will be keeping hold of the wheel hub before gifting it to Webber on December 25.

"We will convert it into a coffee table and give it to him as a Christmas present," said Horner. "How that tyre stayed on that wheel was quite remarkable."

Bridgestone's status as F1 tyre supplier means it is pretty used to winning races now - but in Suzuka last weekend it added an extra triumph to its roster.

In the build-up to the Japanese GP, Bridgestone entered a team in the '2010 Suzuka Box Kart Race' - an event for non-powered machines.

Teams had to design and build their own karts which were then pushed down the start-finish straight before weaving through a slalom section.

Despite some tough opposition, which included HRT driver Sakon Yamamoto, Bridgestone's kart - which used F1 tyres at the rear and wind-tunnel tyres at the front - came out on top.

Speaking about his success, a very proud Hirohide Hamashima said: "This was a tough competition and our engineers dedicated their personal time to build the kart with an absolute minimal budget.

"Our engineers opted to highlight the strengths of Bridgestone's Potenza Formula 1 tyres and I am happy that our wind-tunnel tyres have featured in a victory on their competitive debut. Our engineers once more showed their Passion for Excellence and I am very proud of their superb performance. Thank you to Suzuka circuit for their highly entertaining event."

While eager Japanese fans chased F1 drivers around the paddock for most of the weekend, Jenson Button revealed how he had been subject to a bit of a celebrity mix-up earlier this year.

Button's world title success last season has made him one of Britain's biggest stars - so it was no surprise to him when he got stopped during his travels.

"I had an American come up to me at the airport, Heathrow, a few months back and she said 'Me and my family are big fans of yours,'" Button told Reuters during an interview in Japan.

"I said 'Wicked, thank you so much. I didn't think Formula 1 was that big in America.' And she said 'Yeah, we've got all your records, all your albums.' I was, like 'Fantastic. you think I'm Chris Martin don't you?' and she went 'Are you not?'

"I said 'No, I race in Formula 1 cars'. So she said 'What's your name?' and I said 'Jenson Button'. Then she said. 'Ah, my family are big fans of yours'. And I'm like, 'Yeah, of course they are.'"

Maybe it was Button's singing in the car when he won the title in Brazil last year that had confused her...

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